8 Questions to Ask Before Inviting Mom and Dad to Move in With You

Parents and kids both grow old, like it or not. Eventually, we swap roles. It can be a muddy transition, tangled with emotions and money stress.

About a fifth of middle-aged Americans gave financial support to a parent 65 or older in 2012, the Pew Research Center found. Inviting Mom and Dad to live with you might help cut some of the costs and make caregiving simpler for you. “It’s easier to care for an elderly mom or dad in a nearby room, rather than one who’s across town or even in another state,” says AARP.

But sharing a home with older parents is not for everyone. Here are some financial impacts to think over when you’re making the decision:

1. What’s the cost of long-distance caregiving?

Caring for someone who lives far away is expensive. Long-distance caregivers have higher expenses, an AARP Policy Institute study says. The cost of travel is one of them. When a crisis happens, as it surely will, the costs of last-minute travel are even steeper.

Missed work and the stress of managing care from far away are just two more downsides.

If this is the situation you’re in, AARP has advice and tips. The National Institute on Aging has a publication to help you assess the situation.

2. What’s the cost of having them at your place?

If you’re counting only financial costs, bringing your parents into your home may be the cheapest solution. But that depends on variables like remodeling, the cost of home care if they stay put, and the price of local nursing homes.

Americans provided their elders and other adults with $450 billion worth of unpaid care, with an average hourly value of $11.16, in 2009, according to the AARP Public Policy Institute’s 2011 report on the economic value of family caregiving. (The median hourly wage of a home health aide is about $10, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says.) If your parents lived with you, would you have to cut back on work hours to help take care of them?

The news isn’t all bad. You may be able to deduct certain expenses, like crutches, hearing aids and mileage for driving your parent to the doctor. The unreimbursed medical expenses must be more than 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income to qualify for a tax break. See the rules at AgingCare.com

You can also claim your parent (or any relative) as a deduction if you pay more than half of their financial support. AgingCare.com explains the details.

Long-term-care insurance, if your parents had the foresight to buy it, could make your decisions easier and lighten the financial load for everyone.

3. What are the alternatives?

The alternatives are in-home care, adult day health programs, assisted living and nursing homes. Look up and compare costs with this interactive map from Genworth, which sells long-term-care insurance.

The average cost per day for a nursing home is $230 nationally, according to Genworth’s yearly Cost of Care survey.

4. Would home health care work?

Home health care includes lots of services that help older people live independently. You hire a company or an individual to help with cleaning, cooking, laundry and personal care. You can also hire specialized help such as licensed nurses or massage therapists.

You or your parent may have to shoulder the cost out-of-pocket, but do see if help is available from other sources. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says:

Home care services can be paid for directly by the patient and his or her family members, or through a variety of public and private sources. Sources for home health care funding include Medicare, Medicaid, the Older Americans Act, the Veterans’ Administration, and private insurance.

The costs range widely. The national average for a six-hour visit by a home health aide is $120.30, or about $20 an hour, says the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program. That’s $31,200 a year for a six-hour visit five times a week.

5. Do you have the space?

Think over the logistics of having older people in your home. Could they get around easily and safely? Will they need to negotiate steep stairs? Is there room enough for everyone?

6. Should you remodel?

Remodeling to expand a home or make it more accessible can mean installing grab bars in the bathroom or adding a whole new wing. The New York Times writes about making those decisions.

Remodeling Magazine’s 2013 Cost vs. Value Report shows the average price of various types of remodeling projects by city.

7. Could you buy a new home to hold everyone?

Homes built to hold several generations are trendy right now. MSN Real Estate wrote about costs for these “multi-gen” homes:

Pulte Homes offers casitas in new homes in the Phoenix area that are priced from $500,000 to $600,000. And Lennar Homes’ NextGen four-bedroom, three-bath homes include a “private living suite” with a secure private entry, kitchenette, living area, bedroom and bathroom. Prices vary, but in Bakersfield, Calif., 2,257-square-foot NextGen homes start at $257,990.

More commonly, builders are meeting this demand by offering homes with a second master suite on the lower floor or an extra “flex” room that can be used as a den, office or extra bedroom.

8. What’s available in your town?

When you’re thinking through how a shared home might work, learn about services available in your community. The U.S. Administration on Aging’s Eldercare Locator can help.

Meals on Wheels, if it’s offered, delivers prepared meals to seniors’ homes. Plug your ZIP code into this site to find out if Meals on Wheels is available locally.

For elders who can get around, local senior centers (find one here) have classes, meals, field trips and adult day care programs.

Are your parents living with you? How is it working? Tell us in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

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Comments & discussion

We welcome your opinions, but let’s keep it civil. Like many businesses, we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone. In our case, that means those who communicate by name-calling, racism, using words designed to hurt others or generally acting like an uninformed bully. Also, comments that include links to email addresses or commercial websites typically aren't posted. This isn't a place to advertise your business.

  • me

    It amazes me how easy it is for other people to say, “Why don’t you have your mother (father, in law etc) live with you”, without any concern for the dynamics involved.
    One point that was not brought up in this article are the family dynamics. I have seen this type of situation break up long term marriages because of a difficult senior and an adult child who turns back into a child that puts their parent before the spouse.

  • Jacob Agyei Twumasi

    Powerful article. my concern is that some parents are difficult and sometimes causes a lot of havoc especially your partner. how do you synchronize that?

    • Peggy Whitt

      with a LOT of work and support!